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John Mayer concert was a ‘Wonderland’

When John Mayer performed the final lines of “Gravity,” the ceiling of The Forum in Los Angeles came alive with twinkling stars. Photo by Jamie Altman

John Mayer has ruined John Mayer for me.

I don’t really like talking about music with people. I believe that music taste is personal, and when other people make judgments and comments about the music I listen to, it detracts from its meaning for me.

But if there’s one artist I’m not shy about, it’s Mayer. I’ve been listening to him for years, and especially recently, his music has become really meaningful to me. His lyrics are relatable and his melody is powerful. When tickets went on sale for the world tour of his new album, “The Search for Everything,” I knew I had to go.

But I wasn’t prepared for the fact that Mayer live would be better than any song of his I had ever listened to. As the night progressed, I found myself worrying that no Mayer song on my Apple Music could ever live up to what I was hearing. He had outdone himself.

“Welcome to the never-ending search for everything,” he said to introduce the show.

The concert was divided into chapters: a full band, an acoustic solo section and the John Mayer Trio, which is a band Mayer started with two of his friends in 2005.

“What’s great about playing in the trio is I never know what’s going to come out of my guitar,” he said, while plucking random strings on his electric guitar. What followed was a freestyle jam session that went on for several minutes and eventually became an intense and moving rendition of “Vultures.”

Most songs had extensive, complex guitar solos. The big screen zoomed in on Mayer’s hands, and I watched in a trance – the audience was silent during these parts. I know all the lyrics to almost every Mayer song, but at times, I couldn’t even sing along. I just had to watch and listen.

“The Search for Everything” is reflective of a new era for Mayer, one in which he doesn’t make lewd comments about women in Playboy Magazine, or write about one-night stands and being “Perfectly Lonely.” Instead, he writes about his transformation: “I am not done changing … I may be old and I may be young, but I am not done changing.”

The album is raw and emotion-filled, and so was the concert. His last performance before the encore was “Gravity” – a powerful and poignant song from his 2006 album. We had been in a wonderland of Mayer for two hours, but when he sang the final lines, “Just keep me where the light is,” the entire ceiling lit up with twinkling stars. People waved their iPhones and the The Forum in Los Angeles came alive.

Instead of showing Mayer’s intricate guitar work, the big screen focused solely on his face throughout the song – and even from our nosebleed seats, I could feel his passion. As significant as Mayer’s music has been in my life, I realized in that moment how meaningful it is for him. He feels every song and he means every word of it. And he wants us to feel it, too.

But when the encore was over, I sat there feeling unsatisfied. People started to shuffle out, but I remained in my seat. I wanted more. And then – with no sound to signal the change – “Chapter 5: Epilogue” appeared on the screen. The stage and screen turned to white, and Mayer was revealed playing a white piano with a violinist to perform “You’re Gonna Live Forever in Me.” At one point, Mayer commanded the entire venue by simply whistling into the microphone.

What’s implied from the album title “The Search for Everything” is that the search will never end. Mayer writes about becoming a better person and moving on from relationships, but he knows he still has work to do. It’s about making progress, but never quite finding “everything.”

“He didn’t play everything I wanted to hear, but I wanted to hear everything he played,” reads a quote on the back of a shirt for which I grossly overpaid.

I didn’t hear everything – he shockingly didn’t perform “Your Body is a Wonderland” – and the concert wasn’t everything, but I came pretty close to finding it.

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